Food & Fitness

Experimenting with different ways of working

My first week as a full-time freelance editor and writer was highly enjoyable, quite productive, and most interesting. Since I’m just starting out, I’m really testing the waters and playing around with things a lot to see what works best for me, and what method of working is the best fit at this time.

Last week, I tried working fairly regular “workday” hours. I started working around 8am each day and finished up around 5pm or so (with breaks during the day, of course). It worked pretty well, but I’m not sure that it’s exactly the right fit for me.

Winnipeg Exchange

A photo I snapped during a midday walking break. There are so many pretty historical buildings in my neighbourhood!

Over the weekend, I put together some weekly goals (e.g. submit X number of proposals / ideas to clients) and calculated estimated number of hours I’ll need to spend on each item. All in all, it works out to be approximately 50 hours each week (including personal projects that are work-related, like learning French for professional development). And then I discovered on A Year of Productivity that the most productive number of hours one should work in a week is 35. Hmm.

This has given me a new idea: purposefully experiment with different working styles each week!

Here are a few different ways of working that I would like to play with, in an effort to see which one suits me best (i.e. which one I feel happiest with and makes me the most productive):

1) Ignoring hours and instead tracking my work through process goals. My process goals could be things like “write three magazine article drafts” or “edit two children’s books” or “get through a Rosetta Stone unit of French.” Each of these things would be measurable, and I’d be able to see how much time it might take me in a week to get these things done upon completion.

Rather than tracking my work through hours – in which case, there’s the potential to “work” for eight hours in a day but in actuality get very little accomplished – this would involve tracking my work by the actual work that I get done. What a revelation! It also allows for weekend work: so, if I get the urge to do some work on the weekend, or I’m having trouble getting into the zone on a weekday, it could all even out.

Canadian Press Stylebook

Having favourite books close at hand is a great inspiration and motivator for getting work done.

2) Work split days. My peak time for getting work done is generally between 7am – 11am, and 6pm – 9pm. That’s still a good seven-hour day… but with a seven-hour break in the middle of it. I’m really intrigued by this idea, because I would be very productive during those seven hours, and it would also work well for when we get our CSA boxes in the summer months and have a ton of preserving to do. I could preserve food all afternoon most days of the week!

The drawback here is that if I end up getting a late start to the day, or have prior commitments (such as my hour-long radio show on Friday mornings, which ends up being about a two-hour commitment when you add travel time etc.), or want to go out in the evening, that will be prime work hours lost.

3) Work shorter days, but six or seven days each week. For example, just working in the mornings could be about five hours of work each day. Again, that would be prime time for me to get quality work done – but it would also mean very few days off.

Ultimately, I expect that I’ll do some kind of a combination of all of these, depending on the time of year and my work load and so on. But I still want to experiment to see what is most effective for boosting productivity and keeping me happy and healthy!

What method of working are you best at? Do you prefer standard day hours, or do you work better at nighttime? How does it affect your work quality when you switch around the way in which you work? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


  1. Mary Anne in Kentucky

    I would advise against regularly working seven days a week. I have been doing so for three years now, at two jobs that I love and enjoy, and I am exhausted all the time. For the first year it wasn’t bad (“a change is as good as a rest”), but now it’s very wearing never having a day off, even though two of the days are fairly short. You, of course, could give yourself a day off whenever necessary without inconveniencing other people, but it still doesn’t seem to work well in the long run.

    1. Sagan Morrow

      Thanks for the heads up, Mary Anne! It is definitely important to have time to rest. And perhaps working seven days / week every single week increases the chances of starting to resent your work? Hmmm. Must look to see if studies have been done on this.

  2. HappinessSavouredHot

    Hi Sagan!

    As a freelance translator/copy editor/writer, I know what you feel! I’m not even sure how many hours per week I would get if I added up all the work I do that’s professionally related. Some of it does not feel like work (e.g. reading to “fill the well” of inspiration), and some of it totally DOES feel like work (i.e. I can’t wait to be done).

    I find that a regular, 8 to 5 schedule is not the best for me; even if I wanted, it’s rarely possible given the short deadlines in the wonderful world of translation. Sometimes I end up working all weekend, but then have Monday all to myself. No 2 weeks are the same.

    There are times that are less productive, like early afternoon and late evening. Usually it means I need to sleep. 🙂

    If you ever need help with your French, I am also a freelance French tutor! 🙂

  3. Mary Anne in Kentucky

    I’m back to thank you for mentioning A Year of Productivity. I’ve spent too much time there already. Wow, he’s interesting!
    Also I wanted to say that I don’t think you should necessarily avoid trying seven days of work; from what I’ve seen you have a nice experimental mind, and if it doesn’t work for you you’ll stop. And since you work on your own, you can change your schedule whenever you need to.

  4. Pingback: My Freelance Life: One Year Later

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